Graduate School
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Dr Danson Kahyana

Home country: Uganda

PANGeA partner: Makerere University

Year of enrolment: 2011

Graduation date: April 2014

Department:  English

Supervisor: Prof Tina Steiner

Co-Supervisor: Lynda Spencer


Dissertation title: Negotiating (trans)national identities in Ugandan literature

​Abstract: This thesis examines how selected Ugandan literary texts portray constructions and negotiations of national identities as they intersect with overlapping and cross-cutting identities like race, ethnicity, gender, religious denomination, and political affiliation. The word "negotiations" is central to the close reading of selected focal texts I offer in this thesis for it implies that there are times when a tension may arise between national identity and one or more of these other identities (for instance when races or ethnic groups are imagined outside the nation as foreigners) or between one national identity (say Ugandan) and other national identities (say British) for those characters who occupy more than one national space and whose understanding of home therefore includes a here (say Britain) and a there (say Uganda). The study therefore examines the portrayal of how various borders (internal and external, sociocultural and geopolitical) are navigated in particular literary texts in order to construct, reconstruct, and perform (trans)national identity. The concept of the border is crucial to this study because any imagining of community is done against a backdrop of similarities (what the "us" share in common) and differences (what makes the "them" distinct from "us"). Drawing from various theorists of nationalism, postcolonialism, transnationalism and gender, I explore the representation of key events in Uganda's history (for instance colonialism, decolonization, expulsion, and civil war) and investigate how selected writers narrate/sing these events in their constructions of Ugandan (trans)national identities. My analysis is guided by insights drawn from the work of the Russian literary theorist, Mikhail Bakhtin, particularly his concepts of dialogism and heteroglossia. His proposition that the novel is a site for the dialogic interaction of multiple languages (say of authorities, generations and social groups) and of speeches (say of narrators, characters and authors) each espousing a particular worldview or ideology enables me to create a correlation between literary texts and the nation (which contains a multiplicity of identities like races, ethnic groups, genders, religious denominations and political affiliations with each having its own interests and 'language'), and to argue that Ugandan national identity is constituted by the existence of these very identities that overlap with it. By paying attention to the way selected literary texts portray how these disparate identities dialogue with the larger national community in different situations and how the national community in turn dialogues with other nations through cultural exchanges, migration, exile and diaspora, this study aims at unravelling the dynamics involved in the negotiation of (trans)national identities both within the nation and outside it.

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